Published on May 30th, 2013

hukilau_2011_friday_main_event-161A LOCAL’S GUIDE TO THE HUKILAU

The Hukilau has become a Fort Lauderdale institution, an annual bacchanalia of tiki culture that draws colorfully-clad revelers from around the globe for four days of revelry.

The 12th annual event – set for June 6-9 at the Sheraton Beach Hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant – could be daunting to the newbie or casual observer. So, for those who just want to get their feet wet in this ocean of tiki madness, here’s what to look for:

• The Sheraton (aka Yankee Clipper) – home of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her underwater swim shows in the Wreck Bar – is ground zero. Rooms are sold out, but the neighboring Best Western and other nearby hotels are fine for a “staycation.” Look for Marina’s special performances, including late-night Thursday.

• You don’t need a room or an all-access pass to enjoy the party. Various tickets are available, most including access to the art show and Tiki Treasures Bazaar. For the first time, the bazaar will be free and open to the public Saturday afternoon.

• Eclectic music sets the mood, and The Hukilau offers a rare chance to catch Ìxtahuele (Sweden), The Ding Dong Devils (California), The Hula Girls (California), and The Intoxicators (Tallahassee). South Florida is represented by Gold Dust Lounge and Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays. Check the online schedule for venues and times.

• Further inland, The Mai-Kai hosts multiple events. Sure, we enjoy this Polynesian paradise year-round, but the vibe and energy is unique during The Hukilau. Check out the Thursday night party or make reservations for one of Saturday’s dinner shows to get a front-row seat for the festivities. Bands perform all night in the bar and back dining area. Sunday afternoon’s finale includes live music and a documentary on tiki culture by Miami filmmakers Common Machine.

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– Jim Hayward,